Democrats were poised to wage a substantial campaign based on the issues against Donald Trump next year. The likely front runner at this point, Elizabeth Warren, has a plan for everything. These are issues that most working Americans care about, like the minimum wage and healthcare. But now that they’ve decided to impeach Trump, the odds of those issues getting any serious play have all but evaporated.
On the issue of the minimum wage, no top contender for the presidency has been as aggressive as Bernie Sanders. But for workers, that’s not nearly enough. For the last six years, Sanders has been pushing a $15 an hour minimum wage. That’s a major improvement over the current rate but it’s not nearly enough to keep up with inflation. Even under Sanders, workers would, at best, fail to lose more ground. They wouldn’t gain anything. Just another case study of how capitalism is not reformable.
Clintonite corporatists still control the Democratic National Committee despite their long string of failure at the polls. But the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters—72%—are self-identified progressives.
44% of House primary candidates in 2018 self-IDed as progressive. If you’re after the Democratic nomination for president you have to be—or pretend to be—progressive. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to be “a progressive who gets things done.”
All the top likely contenders for 2020 claim to be progressive—but they would prefer that voters ignore their voting records and unsavory donors. “Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have spent the past two years racing to the leftmost edge of respectable opinion,” reports New York magazine. “In recent weeks, they have also all reached out to Wall Street executives, in hopes of securing some funding for their prospective presidential campaign.” It does no good for your heart to be in the right place if your ass is owned by bankers.
“You don’t just get to say that you’re progressive,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told progressive donors recently.
Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, called the 2020 election a chance to “leverage our power.” She says it’s critical “that we have some very clear guidelines about what it means to be progressive.”
Here are those guidelines.
You can’t be a progressive unless you favor a big hike in the minimum wage. Elizabeth Warren, the first pretty-much-declared candidate for 2020, wants $15 an hour. But she told a 2013 Senate hearing that it would be $22 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity. The official inflation rate makes that $24 today. And according to the real inflation rate (the official number as it was calculated before the Labor Department downgraded the calculation in 1980 and 1990) at ShadowStats.com, $22 in 2013 comes to at least $35 today.
If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968 using the same methodology used to track inflation at the time, it would be closer to $80 per hour.
What should be the progressive demand for the minimum wage? Nothing less than $25 per hour.
(For the record, I see no reason why the minimum wage should be lower than the maximum wage. But we’re talking about progressivism here, not socialism or communism.)
Thanks to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign “free college became a litmus test for liberals,” notes The Atlantic. But a 2017 bill cosponsored by Sanders and Warren defines “college for all” rather narrowly. It only addresses public colleges and universities. It would “make college tuition free for families earning $125,000 a year or less and allow current student loan borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.”
A quarter of American college students attend private schools. Considering that the average cost is $35,000 a year and some run as high as $60,000, even families earning more than $125,000 need help too.
The progressive stance on college should be three-pronged. First, the obscene $1.5 trillion student loan business should be abolished. Student loans should be replaced by grants but if loans exist at all they should be a zero-profit government program. Second, all outstanding loans should be forgiven or have their interest rates dropped to a zero-profit basis. Third, the government should rein in out-of-control public and private college tuition and fees—which have gone up eight times faster than wages—by tying them to the official federal cost of living index.
Progressives agree that Obamacare didn’t go far enough. With 70% of voters in favor, even centrist Democrats like Kamala Harris have climbed aboard Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” bandwagon. Warren, Gillibrand and Booker now say they want single-payer public healthcare. Being progressive, however, means demanding more than what mainstream politicians deem practical—it’s about pushing hard for more ways to improve people’s lives.
In 2020 progressives should be calling for nothing less than universal healthcare. If it’s good enough for the rest of the developed world and many developing countries like Botswana and Bhutan, why not us?
I cosigned a letter to Sanders calling on the Vermont senator to use his platform as the country’s most prominent and popular progressive to talk more about foreign policy and to openly oppose militarism. Now it’s time to get specific.
Progressives should demand that U.S. troops come home from any country that did not attack the United States—i.e., all of them. They should put an end to the disgusting drone wars. The bloated nearly-$1 trillion Pentagon budget should be shredded; let’s see what they can do with $100 billion (which would still be far more than Russia’s defense spending).
From banks that charge usurious credit card interest rates to employers who fire full-time employees and hire them back as “independent contractors,” there are plenty of other targets for progressives to go after.
Progressives: you are no longer the ugly stepdaughter of the Democratic Party. You own the joint.
Now’s the time to demand what’s yours, what you want and what’s right.
(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Leftists want to change the world. They want peace, equal income, equal wealth, equal rights for everybody.
Democrats are not part of the Left. If Democrats have their way, the fundamental inequality of American capitalism, a system in which 1% of the people “earn” 82% of the income, will never change. Democrats apply identity politics as a distraction, in lieu of systematic solutions to class-based discrimination. Democrats demand more women directors in Hollywood, more African-Americans admitted to Ivy League schools, transgendered soldiers in the military so they can join the slaughter of brown people in other countries.
Donald Trump represented a rare opportunity for the Left. After eight years of fascism with a smile, the American system got a figurehead as visually and tonally repugnant as its foreign policy (drones, aggressive wars, coups, undermining popular elected leaders) and its domestic reality (widespread poverty, crumbling infrastructure, no social safety net, for-profit healthcare and education). “Hey,” the Left could finally say, “the U.S. is a disgusting monster headed by a disgusting monster. Let’s get rid of that monster!”
It has become painfully apparent that Democrats have hijacked the anti-Trump Resistance.
“I feel like the revolution is now,” a demonstrator at last weekend’s second Women’s March told a New York Times reporter. “I want equal pay,” added her 11-year-old daughter, Xenaya, chimed in. “And equal rights.”
Definition of “revolution”: “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.”
At those very same marches, however, (establishment Democratic) speakers like Nancy Pelosi and Kirsten Gillibrand urged women to run for office (presumably as Democrats) and to support Democratic candidates (whether they’re women or men). Even if you think that is a beautiful and important idea, it is not revolution.
Running for office and validating the status quo by voting for major-party candidates is the exact opposite of revolution.
USA Today’s take was typical: “Women’s March returns, but the real focus now is the midterm elections.” The paper quotes Linda Meigs, who is challenging a GOP incumbent in Alabama: “I just feel that there’s a blue wave coming, and it’s a wave of women – women who were energized by the Women’s March and by what’s going on in Washington in the White House.”
Meigs is probably right. Even Republicans think so. But so what?
Even if Democrats take back the House and the Senate, women Resisters who fall for the Dems’ co-option game hoping for “equal pay” and “equal rights” will be sorely disappointed. Not because Trump will get in the way — because Democrats won’t fight for anything substantial.
Consider the Democrat most Women’s Marchers probably voted for. Like the rest of her fellow Democrats, Hillary Clinton (a multimillionaire) supported raising the minimum wage to a pitiful $12 per hour. (If it had merely kept up with inflation, it would be $23 per hour now. Given increases in worker productivity, it ought to be at least $25 per hour.)
Nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women.
Clinton gets better-a-century-late-than-never cred for endorsing the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment. But Democrats controlled the White House, House and Senate as recently as 2010 — and never mentioned it.
Even on the signature identity-politics issue of abortion rights, Democrats have long deployed a form of psychological terrorism against women. Unless you vote for us, they’ve been telling women, some Republican president might appoint a Supreme Court justice who might cast the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Women and their partners shouldn’t have to rely on a wobbly 45-year-old court decision. Why don’t Democrats ever propose a bill legalizing abortion nationwide? Considering that 58% of voters, including many Republicans, support abortion rights, and that Democrats could characterize Congressional opponents as misogynists in attack ads, it’s entirely possible that an abortion-rights law could pass Congress. They certainly could have tried under Obama. But they didn’t. Because Democrats don’t care about people. Democrats care about electing and collecting campaign donations for Democrats.
There is no reason — zero, none, nada — to believe that the Democratic Party’s half-century-old refusal to lift a finger to help the disenfranchised will change if and when they win back Congress. Which makes the squandering of the anti-Trump historical moment so tragic.
It’s time for the actually-existing American Left to do some serious soul-searching, analysis and — most of all — organizing. Why didn’t militant leftists insist on greater prominence at the Women’s Marches than those Democratic hacks? Where is the grassroots organizing? Where are the left-wing thinktanks to create an intellectual and theoretical basis for our arguments? Why aren’t there protests daily, as opposed to annually? Trump and the Republicans and the Democrats shouldn’t be able to show their faces in public without facing a crowd of loud and angry protesters.
It’s not like the Democrats are a fiendishly clever adversary! Allowing the idiots who chose Hillary over Bernie to steal anti-Trumpism points to complete impotence and political incompetence on the part of what’s left of the Left.
(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Who are you going to believe: us, or your lying eyes? That’s the good word from Democratic Party powers that be and their transcribers in the corporate media, in response to the “allegations” by Bernie Sanders supporters that the nomination was stolen by Hillary Clinton.
I used scare quotes around the word “allegations” because the truth is plain to see and undeniable by anyone with a microgram of honesty: Hillary Clinton cheated. If the rules had been followed, Bernie Sanders would be the nominee.
As with all things Clinton, of course, definitions matter. It depends on what the meaning of “cheat” is.
To most people, “cheating” means breaking the rules of a contest. By this standard definition, there’s no doubt that the Clinton campaign, its political allies and the Democratic National Committee cheated in favor of Clinton and against Sanders. They broke the law. They disenfranchised voters. They broke party rules. And they violated long-standing customs that are so widely accepted that they are essentially de facto rules of the Democratic Party and the American political system.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, ran a clean campaign.
Like many other voters, I subscribe to a somewhat broader definition of cheating in political elections. To me, Richard Nixon-style “dirty tricks” – the disgusting tactics George W. Bush used against John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 – rise to the level of cheating because they deny voters the facts that they need in order to make an educated decision in the voting booth. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that people are entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts, and outright lies about your opponent’s – and your own – positions and experience not only violate Moynihan’s dictum but constitute the essence of cheating in the political arena.
If Hillary Clinton manages to dodge both an Emailgate-related indictment as well as fallout from her husband’s corrupt tarmac rendezvous with the now-tainted Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the next few weeks and formally secure the nomination she’s been working on since at least the year 2000, it will be a historic moment for identity politics. But it is absolutely imperative that no one watching the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major American political party be fooled into believing that she did it on the up and up.
Hillary Clinton did not run a clean campaign.
If we want to be the kind of country that doesn’t care about that sort of thing, if fair play isn’t an American value, fine with me. But let’s go into this general election campaign with our eyes wide open.
Caucus after caucus, primary after primary, the Clinton team robbed Bernie of votes that were rightfully his.
Here’s how. Parties run caucuses. States run primaries. The DNC is controlled by Hillary Clinton allies like chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Democratic governors are behind Clinton; state election officials report to them. These officials decide where to send voting booths, which votes get counted, which do not.
You thought this was a democracy? Ha.
In the first in the nation Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders pulled off a surprising tie where he was expected to lose badly — Hillary won by just 0.2%. However, party officials never bothered to send vote counters to the most rural parts of the state, where Bernie was favored over Hillary. About 5% of Iowa caucus votes were never counted. At other caucus sites, Democratic officials loyal to Hillary purposefully undercounted Sanders caucusers. No doubt about it, Bernie should have won that one, as well as votes in other states that would have been affected by a big Sanders upset.
Voters in pro-Sanders precincts in Arizona faced long lines because pro-Hillary elections officials didn’t provide enough voting booths. With lines of three hours or more still to go, the media called the state for Hillary.
New York State was arguably the most important contest of the primary season. Had Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in her adopted home state where she had served 1 1/3 terms as senator, he would have dealt her campaign a blow from which she might never have recovered, along with a pile of delegates. Because of her local roots and the fact that New York was a closed primary state in which independence were not allowed to vote, it was a long shot for Bernie. But like the LAPD in the O.J. Simpson case, the Clinton team wasn’t taking any chances.
Did they drop a line to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who endorsed Clinton? Or did state elections officials act on their own initiative? Either way, Bernie Sanders stronghold, the borough of Brooklyn where he was born, was targeted for massive voter suppression. At least 125,000 New Yorkers were illegally purged from the rolls, had their votes lost/thrown away, or were not permitted to vote due to broken voting machines – all in Brooklyn.
Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, who endorsed Clinton, was angry. “It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists,” De Blasio said. “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed.”
The skullduggery continued through the last major primary, California. The night before, the Associated Press put its thumb on the scale, declaring Hillary the nominee in an epic act of voter suppression. Who knows how many Sanders voters decided to stay home once they heard it was all over?
Hillary Clinton was declared the winner by a substantial margin, but after it turned out that state election officials, who report to Governor Jerry Brown, who endorsed Clinton, didn’t bother to count a whopping 2.5 million provisional ballots. According to investigative journalist Greg Palast, the nation’s leading expert on the manipulation of elections, Bernie Sanders actually should have won the state of California along with the majority of its delegates. (Disclosure: I work with Palast as a Fellow of his Investigative Fund.)
One of the most disreputable moves of the campaign was the Associated Press poll of party superdelegates, party insiders who are allowed to vote for whoever they want but, because they are party insiders, inevitably support the establishment candidate. Truth is, the superdelegate system itself is official cheating. But the AP survey made a terrible system even more deadly to democracy.
If they cared about free elections, the superdelegates wouldn’t have stated their loyalty in public. The DNC ought to have told superdelegates that they would lose their status if they expressed their opinions before the convention. As it was, Bernie Sanders started the race miles behind the finish line.
The only way Bernie could have caught up would have been to have scored one landslide win after another. As it was, he came close to doing that. His surprising early momentum, big rallies and popularity with younger voters might have convinced superdelegates to back him, but after they told the AP they were for Hillary Clinton, it was too late for them to change their minds.
I’m out of space. So I can’t get into the DNC’s attempts to deny Bernie Sanders airtime in the form of widely seen debates against Hillary Clinton, her ridiculous claim that she supported Bernie’s $15-an-hour federal minimum wage at the same time that her website confessed that she didn’t, the Nevada Democratic convention in which Sanders supporters were denied seats by Clintonites in charge and then falsely accused of violence, and Clinton’s sleazy “I was for the TPP before I was against it, and now that the primaries are over, I’m for it again” gambit.
That stuff isn’t the usual hardball.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)
Every time Democrats argue for increasing the minimum wage, Republicans trot out the same old arguments: it will increase unemployment, employers will move overseas, and it will increase the barrier for entry for new workers. Studies repeatedly show that none of these things are true, of course, but yet they persist to be argued and reported.